By David Meade
Members of the Greater Williamston Business Association (GWBA) decided Tuesday to change the name of the local business association which has been in existence since the mid 1980s. The organization will be known as the Palmetto Business Association once a new logo and paperwork associated with the name change is completed.
GWBA president Mike Simpson said the change is part of an effort to make the association more inclusive of businesses and other possible members located outside Williamston, including those in nearby West Pelzer and Pelzer. The name change was presented and discussed in the January meeting of the GWBA but was tabled to allow more input from members.
An online survey of members was conducted over a two week period. According to Envision Williamston Director Sonya Crandall, forty two of the organizations 75 members responded. Results showed just less than half of those responding had no concerns about a name change. About 31 members had concern about the loss of name recognition.
Being more inclusive of area towns and businesses was the greatest reason given for supporting a name change. Coming in second was recruiting new businesses over the next two to three years and then planning for future growth.
About half indicated they agree or strongly agreed with changing the name, with about one quarter neutral and another quarter disagreeing with the proposal.
The name receiving the most support was Palmetto Business Association. Other suggested names included Palmetto Area Business Association, Upstate Business Association, Saluda Valley Business Association and a few others.
The name change is also a preliminary recommendation made as part of the town’s Community Master Plan being developed for economic development and growth in the area.
Longtime GWBA member Jim Simpson said the Community Master Plan emphasizes community growth and making the association more inclusive. Simpson said the name Greater Williamston Business Association was chosen when the group first organized in an attempt to be inclusive of businesses operating in the general area of Williamston.
During a presentation made in October, planner Tee Coker said rebranding of the organization sets the tone for future collaborations in the area, which he said is “a sprawling metro area including the three small towns.”
Blake Sanders, who was recently elected mayor in West Pelzer and has been involved in the Master Plan process was asked about outside perception of the organization.
Sanders responded, “There are not many opportunities to bring municipalities together. Organizations like this are the first step in a lot of things in the area and for the next twenty years.”
Sanders pointed out that Pelzer and West Pelzer have direct access to the interstate with Hwy. 8 and are expected to grow at a larger rate than Williamston in the future.
“It is a critical decision to think about the next five to ten years. We need to think about the things we can do to benefit this group.”
One of the biggest concerns with the name change expressed by some members is the cost of rebranding the organization.
Former GWBA president Chris Trotter said a lot of effort went into the Party in the Park events and marketing the GWBA over the last two years. The group also launched a website and social media page during the period.
Under Trotter’s leadership, the organization’s membership increased from 30-35 members to more than 90. Many of those new members are located outside of the town.
Approximately 30 members attending the February meeting voted to change the name to the Palmetto Business Association.
Due to possible conflicts in registering the new name with the SC Secretary of State, the members voted to have Palmetto Area Business Assoication as their second choice.
Attorney Lee Cole said the Secretary of State’s office wants names of non-profit organizations “to not be similar to names already registered.”
In other business the group approved funding of $1200 for the Annual Easter Egg Hunt which will be held on March 19. Raindate for the event will be the following Saturday, Mar. 26.
The GWBA will partner with the Career and Technology Center to have students design a new logo to reflect the name change. The group also approved a $500 donation to the CTC for their help in designing a new logo. The top designs will be presented and voted on at the April meeting.